2011 was a year of successes for gun owners, but there is plenty of reason to stay vigilant

by Joe DeBergalis

With all the success of the gun rights movement in recent years, this might sound like a broken record, but 2011 was a banner year for gun rights. From the halls of Congress to state assemblies across the country, lawmakers heard the voices of gun owners loud and clear and enacted the legislation we were looking for.

In the state legislatures, the biggest win was the culmination of over a decade's worth of unrelenting work in Wisconsin, making Wisconsin the 49th state to allow its citizens some form of concealed carry. The victories kept coming throughout the year in Wisconsin with the passage of two pro-hunting bills and castle doctrine legislation.

Not to be left out, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Pennsylvania also passed castle doctrine bills. In Ohio a law respecting the right to carry in restaurants serving alcohol was enacted. And it became legal to use suppressors for certain types of hunting in Montana, while Washington fixed a longstanding error in its laws, which until now had allowed suppressors to be possessed but not used.

Florida added teeth to its preemption law which has been on the books since 1987. Local violators of the state preemption law now face fines for willful violations. The result has been wholesale repeal of unlawful firearm ordinances across the state.

Additionally, several states enacted laws making it easier for their residents and residents of other states to make out of state long-gun purchases. 2011 also saw a number of states pass laws respecting Right-to-Carry in new places and respecting the right of permit holders to store firearms in their vehicles in employers’ parking lots.

Even Illinois passed pro-gun legislation, protecting the privacy of Firearms Owner Identification card holders from state public records requests.

On the federal level, National Right-to-Carry reciprocity legislation (H.R. 822) took a huge leap forward, passing the House by a vote of 272 to 154, with none of the anti-gun amendments some had feared. Also in the House, the Veterans' Second Amendment Protection Act, which seeks to correct the injustice of veterans being improperly barred from firearm ownership for mental health reasons, was passed as an amendment to the Veterans' Benefits Training Improvement Act of 2011, which is now pending in the U.S. Senate.

The gun owning community helped expose and publicize the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ disastrous Operation Fast and Furious, which supplied hundreds of firearms to the Mexican drug cartels and contributed to the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. The NRA and its friends in Congress have held the administration's feet to the fire, demanding the truth from an obstructionist Justice Department.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the United Nations were put on notice when 58 senators led by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kans.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) voiced their opposition to a UN Arms Trade Treaty that includes any mention of civilian firearms. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre spoke before the UN noting the Senate opposition, stating, "There is extremely strong resistance to the ATT in the United States...We are not aware of any precedent for this - rejecting a proposed treaty before it's even submitted for consideration - but it speaks to the level of opposition."

Gun owners outside of the U.S. flexed their muscles, too. In February, the Swiss voted down a referendum that would have put new restrictions on civilian firearm owners, and eroded Switzerland's time-honored tradition of maintaining a citizen militia by requiring military-issued firearms to be kept outside the home. In Canada, Bill C-19, which would eliminate the useless and billions-over-budget long gun registry, is currently making its way through Parliament and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has vowed that it will become law.

Unfortunately, those bent on civilian disarmament never rest.

In California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring that all new rifles and shotguns be registered, along with another bill outlawing the open carry of unloaded firearms.

Most frightening for gun owners should be the Obama administration's apparent willingness to circumvent the Congress by pursuing gun control through unilateral executive action. In January, the BATFE released its "Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns," which if followed, would have resulted in an executive ban on the import of several popular semi-automatic shotguns. Only a rider attached to the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture, Commerce/ Justice/Science and Transportation/Housing/Urban Development appropriations bills put an end to the importation scheme.

Similarly, in August, the BATFE issued demand letters to all federal firearm licensees in the four Southwest border states, requiring that they report to the BATFE multiple sales of semi-automatic rifles that accept a detachable magazine and are larger than .22-caliber. The act was a flagrant abuse of power, as Congress specifically provided in the Gun Control Act of 1968 that only handguns are subject to such a requirement. The result of BATFE's actions has been an increased burden on FFLs and de facto registration of gun buyers who choose to purchase more than one of these rifles at a time.

These two measures taken by the Obama administration illustrate why, despite several years of progress, 2012 is shaping up to be a critical year for gun owners. Without the need to worry about reelection there is no telling what types of unilateral gun control a second-term Obama administration might spring on the American people. Even worse is the thought of who he may nominate to the Supreme Court.

Obama must be stopped in 2012, and a pro-gun majority strong enough push pro-gun legislation such as National Right-to-Carry reciprocity through the Senate must be established. To reach our goal, we will need to stay energized and informed and help spread the word to others in the gun owning and freedom loving community. The best way to do this is to keep your eyes on NRAILA.org for the latest on legislative news and NRAPVF.org for NRA's latest political news and endorsements.

Joe DeBergalis is an NRA Board of Directors member up for re-election, the 2005 NRA-ILA "Jay M. Littlefield Volunteer of the Year" award recipient, the vice president of operations of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, NRA-ILA EVC (election volunteer coordinator), regional director of Ted Nugent's United Sportsmen of America, administrator for AR15 forum, NRA certified instructor and a Law Enforcement professional.

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